From The Onion alum writers Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon comes a hilarious choose-your-own-path story to ruin your holiday spirit.
”Bah! Humbug! An ideal choice for holiday haters and readers who enjoy David Sedaris’s hysterically funny take, Holidays on Ice.” Library Journal
This is the year you’re going to do it: you’re going to avoid Christmas completely!
...or you were, until your island getaway got washed out by a hurricane. Now you have to choose: should you spend the holiday with your shrewish sister and her Europhile husband, or endure your new girlfriend’s family for a week? Help chop down a tree even though it might throw out your back, or endure the icy judgment of a woman who thinks only children and pussies help bake cookies? Jet off to the glamorous slums of Kingston, Jamaica, or accept the offer of a ride from a man who never stops smiling...and is probably going to turn you into a skin suit?
From the writers who brought you the hilarious parody Choose Your Own Misery: The Office comes a second helping of misery with a festive twist. Christmas is full of fun surprises for kids, but for adults, it’s just an endless series of aggressive crowds, overwhelming credit card debt, and pretending to like the people you’re forced to spend it with.
Once you unwrap all the holiday misery hiding in these pages, the blackness of your heart will rival any lump of coal.
"I played this book thirty times and the happiest ending I got was one where I got to eat turkey with a badly burned hand. Seems about right. Hilarious every time."Ryan North, New York Times bestselling author of Romeo And/Or Juliet
About the Author
Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon have been writing comedy together for many years. Mike has worked for The Onion , founded his own Canadian satirical site, The Smew, and has been a journalist in Toronto and internationally. Additionally, he has written and produced sketch comedy television shows with one of the largest networks in Canada.
Jilly Gagnon is a comedy writer, young adult novelist, and essayist. In the past her work has appeared in Newsweek, Elle, Vanity Fair, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. Since graduating from Harvard in 2006, she has been living in the Boston area, but she’ll always be a Minnesotan at heart.
Read an Excerpt
"That'll be $18.37," the cashier says, snapping her gum and looking supremely bored.
Jesus, all you ordered was a Chicken Ranch-a-Palooza and a soda. And the salad the cashier is passing across the counter looks like something reduced-to-sell. Is there anything worse than airport food? Besides every other part of the airport, that is?
But you're not going to let that bring you down. Not when you're about to head off to the best Christmas ever.
Your older brother's family is with his wife's parents in Seattle, your sister and her pretentious bore of a husband insisted on having "Christmas at home" for the kids, and you haven't been dating your girlfriend Lindsi long enough to be expected to attend her family's holidays. Since none of you will be in the same city, your parents decided they'd take a "freedom cruise," the title of which made their offer — that you could join "if you insist" — feel even more halfhearted. They were probably as excited as you were when you said no.
But you have a better plan. A plan that totally avoids the special hell that is the holiday season. You and your Jewish friend from college are heading off to an all-inclusive, child-free, tropical resort vacation.
You weren't sure he'd be okay with missing Hanukkah, but he reminded you it happened weeks ago, and that "none of us actually give a fuck about Hanukkah. You know that, right?"
Totally. You know Jewish stuff.
You wander toward the gate, digging your fingers into your painful lower back. A few days of daiquiris and white sand are gonna fix that right up.
You glance at the TV monitors. A reporter is being blown sideways by gale-force winds, sheets of rain whipping her face. Fallen palm trees litter the sand behind her.
"Tropical Storm Menudo made landfall last night, and while no deaths have been reported yet, the infrastructure in this developing nation was no match for its hundred-mile-per-hour winds ..."
A map comes up, showing the path of Menudo.
It's centered on your island. Your magical, avoid-Christmas-for-once island.
You look over at the gate, starting to panic.
It's okay; the screen says the flight is still set to board in fifteen ...
You text your college friend but he isn't responding. Frustrated and unsure what else to do, you call your girlfriend, Lindsi.
"Ohmygod, hey, sweetie! Merry Christmas! Are you on a beach yet?"
"No, actually, I'm still at the airport." The line in front of your gate is already past the Hudson News. Double fuck. "They just canceled my flight. Apparently that tropical storm landed ... on the island."
"Oh NO! That's terrible."
Lindsi completely gets you. Things are still pretty new, but she seems like a keeper.
"You should come here. My family would be thrilled to have you!"
You hear her whispering excitedly with her mother about you coming for the holidays.
Okay, "completely" might have been too strong a word.
If you want to take Lindsi up on the offer of a family Christmas, go HERE.
If you're still holding out hope that you can find your way onto some beach, go HERE.
Still, what choice do you have? If Menudo made landfall, there's no way you'll be getting to paradise before your vacation time runs out. And the prospect of spending Christmas alone in your apartment is about as appealing as the salad you're holding.
"Wow, what a great idea," you say, trying to force some enthusiasm into your voice. "It'll be a great chance to get to know your family."
Lindsi lets out a squeaky squeal, like a fairy's fart, and starts talking rapidly to someone on her end. You can't hear much, but the words "Told you he was marriage material" drive a shard of ice into your heart.
She better not expect a drawer at your place when you get back.
"I should go," you say. If you stay on this call longer, you might change your mind, and it sucks to break up with someone in winter. The bed gets so cold. "I want to get a jump at the rental car counters."
"Ohmygod, totally," she says. "I can't wait to see you, sweetie-kins! Drive safe, okay? Love you!"
"Mmmmm," you mumble before hanging up. Sweetie-kins? Love? In mere minutes this has gone from "best Christmas ever" to a horror movie.
Too late now, though. You head to the rental car counter and get in line. An hour later, you make it to the front. The man standing there looks like some reality competition reject, with his nerd-chic glasses, straw fedora, and "ironic" T-shirt.
"Hi there," you say in your cheeriest holiday voice. Airport employees are probably used to being shat on by customers; this will definitely get you better treatment.
"Hi." He rolls his eyes extravagantly.
So much for that idea.
"I wanted to rent a car?"
"We have compacts and conversion vans left," he says, typing in a way that's somehow simultaneously bored and judgy.
"Which is cheaper?"
"Our smallest vehicle will run you $255 a day plus gas, and ..."
"Okay, umm, I'll get back to you."
You head to the next counter and wait in line for another forty-five minutes.
"You can do a one-door for as low as $325 a day, without insurance or gas."
The woman at the next counter looks nice, though. Her face is doughy in a favorite-aunt kind of way, and she's wearing a cat sweater. Surely she won't try to gouge you.
"Oh, I'm sorry there, hon, that nice gentleman in front of you just rented our very last vehicle! But I can offer shuttle service back to terminal C, dontcha know."
If you want to go back to the first rental car counter and bite the exorbitantly expensive bullet, go HERE.
If you'd rather take your chances at the bus depot, go HERE.
"That's really kind of you to invite me ..." How can you get out of this with the least effort? "But I don't want to impose."
You hear whispers in the background: "Will we get to meet him?"
"Don't be silly, silly-billy!"
"I know, I know, but I should catch up on work while the office ... is quiet." Jesus, even a girlfriend as new as Lindsi will see through that bullshit excuse.
For a second it's silent.
"Um, you still there?" you ask.
"Cool. I thought the call dropped."
"Anyhow, thanks again. I appreciate the offer. I just have so much to do. Here."
"K." You hear a voice say, "Wait, really?"
"Well ... awesome. Cool. Talk soon."
You hang up. That went well. Right?
On the bright side, you have the entire holiday to yourself. You can do anything you want. Anything at all.
If you want to be "wild" and try to rebook your flight to somewhere else, go HERE.
If you want to call your sister, who still lives in your hometown, and see if you can crash her Christmas, go HERE.
You can't put a price on not spending hours on a bus. At least you got a Christmas bonus ... which will go entirely toward this rental.
You finally make it back to the first counter. The man there sneers in ... recognition?
"That's going to be $315 a day, plus a $200 security deposit, and you'll have to sign here to indicate you'll be bringing it back with a full tank."
"Wait, I thought you said it was $255 a day."
He wrinkles his nose in disdain. Like he can afford that on a Speedy Rentals paycheck. Wait, what do they pay? Is it more than your office?
"That was for our sub-sub-compact. We ran out of that model."
"I can show you the vehicle if it will help you decide."
"What about the other customers?"
He shrugs and walks through a side door. You follow.
The car he shows you is so small you're not sure it's legal on highways. Inside, the fabrics are stained, there's a multicolored array of crumbs on every surface, and a strange smell lingers, like old cheese and queefs.
"We can clean it for $75," the counter attendant sighs.
"Seriously? Is that legal?"
"It's the last car on the lot. I could get a kidney for it if I asked." You frown. Whose mind goes right to organ harvesting? "So, you know. Take it or leave it."
You take it.
With traffic, it takes you an hour to reach the interstate. You've barely made it out of town when you realize the tank is empty.
At least gassing up will give you a chance to move around. The driver's seat is shaped in a way that's making your back shoot lightning-like pain pulses to all your limbs. You can't feel your left foot anymore. But it's only another ... 128 miles, according to the GPS. In traffic, that won't take more than ... Jesus, you don't even want to think about that.
You pull off at the next exit.
"Excuse me, sir," someone whispers in your ear as you're pumping gas. What the fuck? You turn to see a man out of a fifties sitcom, hair perfectly parted, slight paunch filling out his patterned sweater vest, smile eerily wide.
You look around, hoping he's talking to anyone else, but you're the only person there. Where'd this guy come from? Also, he's inches away from your face.
"Can I ask where you're headed?"
You can't think of a lie fast enough.
"Little Hampshireton," you say.
"It's a Christmas miracle!" He looks up at the gas station roof, smile growing wider. You must have to spend years developing the facial muscles for that. Or just have schizophrenia. "That's exactly where I'm headed, and my vehicle has unfortunately broken down. Would you be willing to convey me as far as the outskirts of town? I'd be ever so appreciative."
Bah, humbug! You don't have time for hitchhikers! Go HERE.
Earn yourself some Christmas karma and help this weirdo out HERE.
There's no way you're going to drop a month's rent on a car rental. You head outside to catch the shuttle to the Greyhound station. It'll take longer, sure, but how bad can it be?
Oh, it can be very, very bad.
You've never been to the station before, so you're shocked at how gray everything is, like they coated the entire place in a fine layer of sticky-dust in order to keep the atmosphere on-brand.
You examine the torn, fading schedule taped to a wall near the main entrance. From what you can tell, there's an express bus that goes directly to Greater Bentneck, Little Hampshireton's more cosmopolitan neighbor. Surely someone can pick you up there.
You head to the ticket window. The plastic is so dingy with fingerprints you can't actually tell if anyone's inside. After a few minutes you call out.
"Hello? Can I buy a ticket?"
You hear a stirring from deep within the bowels of the bus station. Several minutes later, a wet, hacking cough announces a mystery Greyhound worker's presence.
"Can I help you?" It sounds like something from under a rock. You're not even sure if it's a man or a woman.
"Yes ... please. I'd like a ticket for the Greater Bentneck express?"
"That bus left two minutes ago."
God DAMMIT. You should've known that dough-faced rental car employee was a waste of fucking time.
"Okay, well, I'm trying to get to Little Hampshireton. Is there another option?"
"Little Hampshireton?" The employee hacks thoughtfully. "If you take the 232 into Dinkeltown, you can pick up the Farminghamlet express until Wiggleswam, then grab the Ruralton local to Little Hampshireton."
It sounds complicated. Though painfully charming.
"How long would that take?"
"Oh, I'd say it'll run ... about twenty, twenty-two hours? Assuming you catch the 9:02." You look over at the clock. It's only 6:38.
"Let me make a couple calls."
You're starving, and you can't decide which misery would hurt more — losing a day of your life to a bus schedule out of Deliverance or taking out a new loan to finance a rental car — until you eat.
You head to the vending machine outside.
The only options are a single box of spearmint Tic-Tacs and five rows of Combos. You buy two of each flavor. It's amazing how accurately cracker filling can replicate "omelet" flavors.
A car pulls into the depot as you're eating the second bag. It slows down, coming to a stop across from you. The window lowers, and a too- round, aggressively smiling man pops out. His hair is so smooth it looks like a Mr. Potato Head attachment.
"Hello, friend!" he says, smiling wider. How can cheeks move that way? "You look like you could use a ride. Where you headed?"
"Uh, Little Hampshireton?" You're too confused by that immobile grin to lie.
"What a coincidence. I'm headed to Little Hampshireton myself. Can I give you a lift?"
Hell no, that's how skin suits get started. You'll stick with the bus. Go HERE.
What's so wrong with being extremely, painfully happy and offering rides to total strangers? Hop in! Go HERE.
It takes an eternity to make it to the harried agent manning your gate. She doesn't even look up at you.
"What do you want?" she asks flatly.
"I was wondering about switching my flight."
She rolls her eyes. Jesus, it's not that strange of a request. What have all these other people been asking for, vouchers to the BeerXPress in the terminal?
"Where do you wanna go?"
You glance over at the board.
Palm Springs? Meh.
Part of you remembers reading somewhere that Jamaica is a mixed bag at best, but it would so perfectly match what you've already packed. Plus, you don't know anyone who's actually gone there; you'd have a social- media-worthy travel story.
The agent taps her fingers on the desk impatiently.
"Maybe, um, Jamaica?"
"The flight leaves in two hours and lands at Norman Manley Airport in Kingston."
Ohhh, Kingston. Sounds fancy.
If you want to just go for it and fly to Jamaica, go HERE.
If you want to get a flight voucher and head home for a "restful" Christmas, go HERE.
You call your sister. You're not exactly thrilled about spending the holidays with her, but what are you going to do instead, sit home alone? She picks up, voice irritable. You decide to cut right to the chase.
"I was thinking of coming to your place for Christmas."
A long pause follows.
"Fine. We'll see you when you arrive."
She hangs up. Apparently she's as enthused about this as you are.
At least she still lives in your hometown. If she's not excited to see you, there will be plenty of other people who will be.
Like your nephews. They must be at least what ... three and six by now? They'll be thrilled you're coming. You're the "cool" uncle.
You grab a rental car at the airport and head back to your place to throw a few things inside. Luckily, your hometown isn't far.
A few hours later, you pull into a parking spot in the town center to check your sister's address. Man, was this place always so quaint?
It's getting late. If all of the stores haven't closed yet, they will soon. You should probably bring something to your sister's, even though — or rather, because — she was bitchy on the phone.
If you want to grab toys for your nephews, go HERE.
If you want to go to the specialty foods store and pick something out for your sister, go HERE.
"Oh, yeah, I'd, uh, love to help, but I actually have to make some stops along the way ..."
"That's all right with me!" His smile is so wide now you're seeing parts of the human mouth you've never actually seen. "I love learning about the things other people find interesting or necessary to complete."
What? Are there any mental institutions around these parts? With lax security?
"I also think I'm coming down with something." You cough feebly.
"Mother always told me my constitution was so strong I made the pigs healthier!" He laughs cheerily, his mouth opening like a terrifyingly bland theater mask.
"And I have personal space issues." Thank god, the tank is finally full. You put the nozzle back. "I'm sorry, I just can't help you tonight."
"Oh. Well ... okay," he says, his smile dimming slightly. "I'm sure another kind individual on his or her way to Little Hampshireton will pull off at this specific gas station soon."
"Definitely." You avoid eye contact as you walk around the vehicle, but you can feel him staring, grin still firmly in place, eyes lifeless and glassy. That stare follows you for miles down the highway. Should you have taken him? No, nobody picks up hitchhikers anymore. Especially when they look and act like youth pastors. Those are always the ones that carry shivs.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays"
Copyright © 2016 Mike MacDonald & Jilly Gagnon.
Excerpted by permission of Diversion Publishing Corp..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
While Andy Williams might try to convince you that the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, most people know that it is exactly the opposite. The once joyous holiday that you enjoyed as a child becomes overrun with obligations as you age. Office parties, gift shopping and family dinners are doubly miserable during the holidays. It was only a matter of time before someone created a Choose Your Own Adventure book about the holidays. Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays is just what you expect. Stranded because of a storm, you must choose how you want to spend Christmas (the title says holidays but you are celebrating Christmas). Do you want to spend Christmas with your girlfriend or try to salvage your trip? Do you want to be a nerd or do you want to hang out with the cool guy from your old workplace? Do you want to be paranoid or not paranoid (This actually comes up more than once. The you of this book is an extremely paranoid freak.) Each choice you make takes you down a path of worst case scenario and dark humor. Unlike the real holidays, this trip will leave you wanting more. The only disappointing thing about Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays is that you do not have a path that leads you to spending Christmas with your parents and extended family. Let’s face it, spending Christmas with your parents and extended family can be the most painful thing during the holiday season. It felt like a missed opportunity to really get at the heart of miserable holidays. Overall, Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays is an amusingly fun read. It combines the fun of Choose Your Own Adventure books of your childhood and the horrors of the holidays from your adulthood. Read it with some eggnog; you will need it. I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
A Fun Read. I was a First Read Winner of this book and I really enjoyed it. If you ever wondered what would have happened if you did something different, then this book is for you. So many different outcomes to choices our main character makes, some funny, some cringeworthy and some a little unsettling, what a perfect read for the holidays, it might make you appreciate your family and holiday plans a bit more, though I would venture that one can enjoy it anytime of the year. Very original and I will have to check out the first book in the series, very entertaining for sure.
You want to feel like a kid again? Read "Choose Your Own Misery: The Holidays" by Mike MacDonald and Jilly Gagnon and feel young again. It is a choose your own adventure for adults! There are lots of points in the story that you have to make decisions and boy do they take you in totally different ways! I tried several ways and it was a hoot! It was fun and there are so many different options that I had to read it several times and still didn't get all the options possible. They are fun and clever stories about the holidays.Very cute and a great idea for parties or just for yourself. Thanks NetGalley for suggesting this book.